1968 Porsche 908

Due to the dominance of Ford's seven-liter GT40s in endurance racing, the France-based international regulatory body (FIA-Federation Internationale de l'Automobile) decided to change the rules for 1968. Cars built as Group 5 prototypes would not be limited to five-liter engines and Group 6 cars would be three-liters. Porsche's answer was the 908, equipped with a new three-liter, eight-cylinder engine.

The 908s were initially fitted with coupe bodies in both long- and short-tail configuration. In 1969 a long-tail 908 coupe came very close to capturing endurance racing's most significant prize, the 24-Hours of Le Mans, finishing a mere 400ft behind the winning Ford GT40. Porsche did, however, use its 908 to great effect by winning its first World Championship of Makes in 1969.

The 908 was also extremely successful as a spyder (open car). In its ultimate form, the lightweight 908/03 won the Targa Florio and Nurburgring races in 1970 and 1971, the car exclusively built for these two races where nimble handling is of paramount importance. Another variation of the 908 was the 'Flounder,' a spyder with its pinched body resembling a coke bottle.

This 908 is one of the first series and was originally bodied as a long-tail coupe. It ran at Le Mans in this configuration in 1968 and was later converted to a spyder by the factory.


Vehicle Profiles

1968 Porsche 908 vehicle information

Spyder

Chassis Num: 908-016

The 908's initally used short-tail and long-tail coupe bodies similar to those of the 907's, with engines that were basically two-liter sixes with two more cylinders and a bigger bore. Then came the various Spyders, including the 'Coke bottle,' the c....[continue reading]

1968 Porsche 908 vehicle information

Coupe

Chassis Num: 908-019

After the 1967 LeMans race, the FIA decided to change the rules to limit maximum displacement to 4-liters. Porsche reworked the 8=907 to accept the new 3-liter engine, thus creating the 908. The new 908 boxer eight cylinder engine needed only 25 ma....[continue reading]

1968 Porsche 908 vehicle information

Coupe

Chassis Num: 908-010

Porsche 908-010 short-tail coupe was a Porsche works car and was one of the first editions of the legendary 908. It is believed to be one of five ex-works short-tail prototypes still in existence. It is powered by a 3-liter 8-cylinder motor produci....[continue reading]

1968 Porsche 908 vehicle information

Coupe

Chassis Num: 908-008

Porsche introduced the 908 to the world of sports car racing in 1968. Joining forces with their 907, the new short tail and long tail coupes made for a tight battle as Porsche and Ford fought until the final race of the season at LeMans, before Ford ....[continue reading]

1968 Porsche 908 vehicle information

Coupe

Chassis Num: 908-011

Racing enhances the breed, and this was certainly true for Porsche. In the 1960s, Porsche continued to distance itself from the competition by adapting aerospace technology in the form of fiberglass and composite construction in their 904 models. The....[continue reading]

Spyder
Chassis #: 908-016 
Coupe
Chassis #: 908-019 
Coupe
Chassis #: 908-010 
Coupe
Chassis #: 908-008 
Coupe
Chassis #: 908-011 

History

The Porsche racing legacy began with the very first cars that it produced. Dr. Ferry Porsche was the company creator and racing enthusiasts who understood the benefits of racing participation. Prior to the 908, the Porsche victories had been in their class rather than overall wins, due to their small engines when compared with their competition.

The 908 was identical to the 907 both in long and short tail form, except for the engine. The eight cylinder, three-liter 908 was Porsche's first attempt to win The World Manufacturers' Championship. In 1967, Hans Mezger, an employee of Porsche and an individual who would later design the 917 Type 912 12-cylinder, began the design and production of their power-plant that would finally equal the competition and make it a contender for the overall victory. The three-liter engine was a modified version of the four cam six-cylinder engine that had been used in the Type 901 flat six used in the 911. With dry sump lubrication, titanium rods and bolts, aluminum heads and cylinders, and sodium filled valves, the engine was technologically advanced, lightweight, and rugged. The bore was enlarged to 84 mm and fitted to the 907's six-speed transaxle. However, from 1969 a new five-speed gearbox was used.

The 908/3 engine produced 350 horsepower which was low when compared with the other Manufacturers engines. The reason the 908 was competitive was because it was light and its power-to-weight ratio was better than most.

The racing history for the 908 began at the 1968 Nueburging 1000km. The short-tail coupe driven by Vic Elford and Jo Stiffert won the event. Another race in Austria had Stiffert finishing first and Kurt Aherns finishing second. By now, the shortcomings of the 908 were evident. It suffered from crankshaft-induced torsion vibrations causing many of the engine components to fail, including the alternator. There where aerodynamic instabilities, wheel bearing failures, gearbox failures, and frame breakage. These issues were addressed in time by changing the firing order of the engine, adding fins and fifteen inch wheels, and using a new Type 916 transaxle.

The 908 was entered in the 1968 Le Mans 24 Hours where it finished third behind the second place 907.

For the 1969 season and with a years worth of 908 growing-pains realized, it was ready for victory. Unfortunately, the 908 was unable to capture the checkered flag at Daytona or Sebring. The 917 was debuted at the Geneva Auto Show and the 908 was becoming old news. The mechanical shortcomings in the 908 were once again addressed and the remainder of the season was positive. A win at Targa Florio along with many other victories earned Porsche with its initial FIA World Manufacturers Crown.

The 908 had an illustrious career both on the race track and as a movie star. Porsche 908#022 was used in Steve McQueen's film about LeMans. The movie was to be a documentary of the of the 24 hour race. In preparation for the movie and for LeMans, Steve raced the 908 during the 1970 season. The vehicle was DNF'ed at Riverside International Raceway due to a gearbox failure. A first place finished was achieved at the Phoenix International Raceway. At the Sebring International 12 Hour Endurance Race, another amazing race, it was Ferrari with Mario Andretti behind the wheel who would emerge victorious by a mere 22 seconds. The 908 place second overall and first in the Sports Prototype class. 908.022 was entered in LeMans but Steve McQueen was unable to race. The film's backers did not want to take the chance of having their movie star injured or worse. So Herbert Linge and Jonathan Williams drove 908.022 to a ninth place finish. The pit stops for 908.022 were longer than most due to the additional duties involved such as changing the camera film. McQueens LeMans paid homage to the greatest endurance race in the world, the greatest cars of the time, and the greatest drivers. It is an excellent souvenir, documentary, and memento.

The entire racing career for the 908 included eleven championship victories over a span of four years. One of the closest and memorable LeMans race was in 1969 where the 908 finished in second place. The 917 had been retired after hour 22 due to clutch failure. The race came down to a Ford GT 40 and the Porsche 908. The John Wyer's Ford GT 40 finished less than 70 yards in front of the 908. The LeMans race would ultimately become the one that would forever elude the 908.

The 908 is one of many great Porsches from the 1960's. The 904, 906, and 917 often overshadow the 908's success. The mechanical difficulties that plagued the 908 kept it from achieving some important victories but its accomplishments are undeniable and legendary.


By Daniel Vaughan | Feb 2008
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